NBA Today: The team that makes the player

Our HoopIdea talk of tanking has focused on a number of moving pieces, most notably:

  • The really good players who get drafted highest.

  • The strategies front offices use to get those life-saver players, which often involves losing.

  • What the league could do to make it so losing isn't part of a winning strategy.

But there is a whole 'nother part of the story. (One that relates to "royal jelly.") And that is what teams do, or don't do, to make young prospects into top-grade NBA contributors.

That is David Thorpe's area of expertise, and here he makes a fantastic guest in what has to be my favorite NBA Today to date.

The trio of John Wall, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose were all similarly touted out of college (among the best athletes in the world, in need of better shooting). But they are not at all guaranteed to have parallel careers, and a lot of that comes down to the environment they are in. The right team might make any of them an MVP-type player. The wrong team could have a harmful effect.

Look at the NBA's good or great players, and a shocking number of them were at one point or another benched, cut or otherwise written off. Chauncey Billups was once a cautionary tale. They had almost no use for Tracy McGrady in Toronto. Tyson Chandler was a forgotten man in Charlotte, just before he went on to help the Mavericks win a title, and then led the Knicks to massive improvement on defense.

Brandan Wright was rejected by the Warriors and Nets, and is not playing long, productive minutes for the defending champions.

In other words, the value of a great, professional team environment extends beyond making good transactions and hiring good coaches. There's also huge value in building an environment to get the most out of the players under contract.